Are You Faster On A Treadmill Or Outside?

When it comes to running, many people wonder whether they are faster on a treadmill or outside. The answer isn’t straightforward, as there are several factors to consider.

In this blog, we’ll explore the research and differences between treadmill running and outdoor running to help you better understand which might be more suitable for you.

Are You Faster On A Treadmill Or Outside?

Outdoor running is generally faster in overall results. The varied terrain, air resistance, and natural gait cycle engage more muscles and provide better fitness gains.

However, treadmill running can be convenient and offers better shock absorption for those prone to joint issues. Choose based on your goals and preferences.

Pace and Perception

One of the most common questions among runners is whether they are faster on a treadmill or when running outside. Studies have shown that most runners tend to run slower on a treadmill compared to running outside. This phenomenon can be attributed to our perception of speed being influenced by the machine. When running on a treadmill, the lack of external elements and scenery might trick our brains into thinking we are running slower than we actually are. As a result, we tend to run at a slower pace on the treadmill compared to outdoor running.


Another significant difference between treadmill running and outdoor running lies in the biomechanics involved. When you run on a treadmill, the treadmill belt assists with leg turnover, making it easier to run faster. As a result, the pace achieved on a treadmill might not accurately correlate with your running pace on the road. The assistance provided by the treadmill can lead to a false sense of speed, making it challenging to gauge your actual running capabilities.

Moreover, the surface difference plays a role in biomechanics as well. Running outside on pavement or uneven terrains requires your muscles and joints t adapt to the changes in surface, providing greater engagement and a different workout experience. On the other hand, a treadmill’s smooth surface can lead to less muscle activation, particularly in the stabilizing muscles.

Natural Gait Cycle

Running outside allows for a more natural gait cycle compared to running on a treadmill. On a treadmill, you’re constrained by the machine’s parameters, which may cause some people to shorten their stride. This limitation can affect your running form and potentially impact your performance. Running on uneven surfaces outside requires more balance and coordination, leading to a more varied gait pattern that is beneficial for overall strength and flexibility.

Shock Absorption

One advantage of using a treadmill is better shock absorption compared to running on pavement or roads. This means less stress on your ankles and knees, making it a suitable option for those prone to joint issues or injuries. If you have a history of joint problems or are recovering from an injury, treadmill running might be a safer choice for you.

However, it’s important to note that while treadmills offer better shock absorption, they might not fully replicate the impact forces experienced during outdoor running. Running on softer surfaces, such as grass or trails, can also provide some degree of shock absorption while still giving you the benefits of outdoor running.

Air Resistance

When running outside, you experience air resistance, which can make the effort feel slightly harder compared to running on a treadmill. The resistance offered by the air requires your body to work harder, engaging more muscles and enhancing your cardiovascular conditioning. This additional challenge can lead to better fitness gains over time.

However, replicating the exact air resistance experienced outside is challenging on a treadmill. Some studies suggest that setting the treadmill to a 1% grade can more accurately simulate outdoor running at certain speeds. This slight incline can help compensate for the lack of air resistance and make treadmill running more comparable to outdoor running in terms of effort.

Mental Engagement

Running outside offers a more dynamic and engaging experience compared to running on a treadmill. The changing scenery, interaction with nature, and exposure to different weather conditions can make outdoor running more enjoyable for many individuals. This mental engagement and distraction can lead to better overall performance and motivation.

On the other hand, treadmill running can sometimes feel monotonous, especially if you’re staring at the same spot or watching TV during your run. To make treadmill running more mentally engaging, you can incorporate interval training, listen to motivating music or podcasts, or use interactive apps that simulate outdoor running routes.

Choosing the Right Option

Ultimately, whether you’re faster on a treadmill or outside depends on your goals and preferences. Treadmill running offers convenience, especially when weather conditions or other factors make outdoor running challenging. It provides a controlled environment, making it easier to track your progress and control variables like speed and incline. Moreover, the reduced impact on joints makes it an excellent option for injury-prone individuals.

However, if you’re training for a specific race or event, incorporating outdoor running is crucial. Outdoor running prepares you for the varied conditions you might encounter in a race, such as different terrains, weather elements, and air resistance. It helps build strength and adaptability, which are essential for becoming a well-rounded runner.


In conclusion, both treadmill running and outdoor running have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice between the two depends on your fitness goals, personal preferences, and any specific training requirements you might have.

Whether you prefer the convenience of a treadmill or the natural experience of outdoor running, staying consistent and committed to your running routine is the key to achieving your fitness objectives.

Remember, always listen to your body, and if you have any existing health concerns or injuries, consult a healthcare professional or fitness expert before starting any new exercise regimen.